Recently, while reading the biography of Michele Obama, a particular quote stood out to me.
“All the habitants of the earth carry an invisible history, and just for that they deserve tolerance.”
After a weekend of visiting the Amigos de Jesus school, I could understand why.
I think the most beautiful part of being at Amigos de Jesus is that the work that BECA does here helps us make visible the smallest things that tend to became banal in our daily routines. I think one of BECA’s values that most symbolize this experience is that the volunteers are not here to help the community, but to be part of it. And one thing that can not be written in any official document is how the community helps us, by allowing us to be part of it.
We can see these values from a story I heard from volunteer Amelia about X.
X lived on the streets the first few years of his life alongside his older brother. During this time, the two siblings unfortunetly got separated from one another. Some time later, when Amigos de Jesus found X, they decided to shelter him, promising to look for his brother in hopes of bringing the two together again. Amigos de Jesus knew that they would have the structure to welcome his brother later, while many other institutions may not have the same resources to do so.
After a year of searching, they finally found X’s brother. On the first call X made to his brother he told him how his new life was.
Amelia, the volunteer who told me this story, said that when she was a child and invited a friend to her house, she used to say how nice her neighborhood was. She would explain how you could play with such toys, watch such movies, and eat such treats. And when she witnessed that first phone call between X and his brother, she heard him telling him of the following things:
“It is so cool here because we have a bed just for us, with sheets, and three meals a day, and two snacks. We can take a shower every day in a real shower. You’re gonna love it here.”
At this point, as Amelia told this story, she cried, I cried, and we communicated more with eyes than with words. Because at that moment we were so grateful to see life through another perspective. We were so happy because the story of X, like so many others, made visible to us what we could never see before.
We talked a bit more about how we showered now, and how before that would be a problem, but now, we are simply thankful because we have water in a bucket. How we now face a lot of heat, but we are so grateful when we stop in front of a fan that blows hot air, just because we have this fan. And so we follow every minute of our days here with the feeling of gratitude to be able to witness scenes like that call. And simply to be living daily with this feeling of gratitude brings happiness.
We would love that whoever was outside BECA could also feel this happiness every day. And we understand why, in denying certain material comforts, we gain comfort in our soul. And once we gain that inner peace, we can bring these new values back to our countries. Of course this has a limit, and more resources are welcome and needed. Having practical conditions to continue these experiences would make it even more possible to stay longer. Heat disturbs student concentration, and other difficulties are big barriers to our mental health throughout the year. All help is always welcome.
But the real teaching that Amigos de Jesus can teach us is that the idea of cooperation is the real help we are all seeking. And that is what makes the various layers of invisibility of our personal trajectories visible to us.